As a spectator at a college football game in early September, my eyes scanned the stadium as I entered to find it filled with fans, coaches, cheerleaders, team players, the marching band, the media, and last but not least – the school’s mascot. I often wonder about who is inside that cute little (sometimes enormous) costume and what it must be like to view their world from within. Is it a male or female entertaining the fans and posing for photo opportunities? If I met this person outside of the costume, would they have the same exuberant personality I witnessed at the game? How uncomfortable are they when suited up in the costume? Are they burning up? Is it hard to breathe? What thoughts run through their minds as people anxiously gather round and stand by to pose for a photo? Ahh, the things a college mascot must (and do) endure for the price of notoriety and fame even when there’s so little of either that goes with the job. Other than classmates and faculty, no one really knows who makes up the college mascot and brings it to life.
I remember my first college football game when I attended specifically to watch my son be part of the opening event that welcomed the team on the field. I soaked up everything about that game and felt like a teenager again thinking back to my high school days. This was the first time I caught sight of the school’s mascot who, at every glance I got, was quite entertaining and amusing. This mascot certainly did their job well because I felt even more proud to be associated with the university.
As in any profession, there are requirements that clearly define the make up of the perfect candidate. Mascots must be physically fit and energetic. There is no standing still (unless posing for a photo) when you must be visible among the fans and actively involved at all times. Mascots who are athletically inclined, quite limber and extremely flexible, like that of a cheerleader, have the upper hand. Gymnastics, dance, and recreational sports have their advantages indeed. Candidates must be able to withstand the heat. Temperatures can easily reach 120 degrees inside those costumes and often do especially if parading around a football field in sunny Florida in the middle of September. Keeping yourself hydrated is an absolute necessity. And last but not least a mascot must be entertaining which requires personality, humor, creativity and spontaneity. Personality is a gift and not something that can be learned. You either have it or you don’t. This also holds true with having a humorous side and a knack for being creative.
Practice makes perfect. We have all heard that cliche before. There’s nothing more to add to that. It’s just plain common sense. What better way to critique your performance than to watch a video of yourself. Mascots must know the rules of the game. There is nothing more embarrassing than a mascot pumping up the crowd for something that benefits the visiting team. Frightened children, obnoxious fans, devastating losses, these things are a given and a good mascot should always know exactly how to negotiate, act upon, and execute necessary improvisations to deal with any surrounding circumstances – winning or losing, in the splendor of victory or the agony of defeat.
The job is a voluntary position but depending on the college or university, one might receive a scholarship. Being able to travel with the team, work with the cheerleaders and band members instills teamwork and brings about lifelong friendships. Some might say a mascot has the opportunity to act like a fool since the general public has no idea who fills the costume; but don’t be fooled, there’s a method to the madness. There are numerous rewards for a college mascot but the greatest of all would be self-actualization. Underneath all that make-up you are bound to find a unique individual representing their alma mater with a great sense of pride, incredible endurance, and perhaps even an astounding outlook on life!